The NBA will take its time with Jabari Bird...and it should

Sometimes, the obvious move isn't the right move.

Like many of you, my first thought after hearing Jabari Bird's domestic violence allegations was that they should cut him, immediately.

Yes, everyone deserves their day in court, but domestic violence should always be approached with the mentality that while alleged perpetrators are innocent until proven guilty, alleged victims should be believed and protected even more vigorously.

Why? Well, false accusations are, after all, a crime, and that whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing has to not only apply to all parties, but also be coupled with the right to be safe from reprisals for reporting. If you don't, very few people would report domestic violence, to the detriment of society.

It did not occur to me that quickly cutting Bird could have the same effect.

But, according to MassLive's Matt Vautour, that is exactly the case, and while initially counter-intuitive, makes a lot of sense. As Vautour notes:

"Certainly cutting him sends the message to other athletes: If you act like that, everything you worked for athletically will be taken away. However, domestic violence experts say what sounds like an easy, straightforward call -- punishing a bad guy feels righteous -- it might not be the right thing to do and often puts the victim at even greater risk. Losing an athletic career certainly is not too harsh a price to pay for a crime that despicable. But that often hurts the victim and, depending on the situation, their children, too. 
In some cases the issue is financial. Given the time and travel demands on a professional athlete, many wives and girlfriends often give up their own careers to take care of the family. Depending on the situation, leaving an abusive athlete can create impossibly awful decisions and circumstances financially. Worse, if an athlete is already prone to violent behavior, he'll often blame his wife/girlfriend for reporting his actions and the fact that he got cut because of it. That can put the victim at risk of further violence. The combination of those reasons could dissuade some victims from getting help."

This is a very, very bad situation for all involved, but the league's new domestic violence policy was designed to allow due process to take place, and let good science and established legal precedent guide their actions in making a decision. It would be great to have this in the rearview mirror, with such an important season ahead.

That isn't going to happen, nor should it.

Remember, this kind of thing doesn't happen in a vacuum; while, to us, this fades right back into the background while life goes on, for the team, it still looms large. For Jaylen Brown, a former teammate at Cal, and long-time friend, it remains intimately part of his imminent concerns - his mother will be a participant in Bird's supervised release agreement. It will not be easy for him.
I once had a friend who had a break like this. He'd shown small warning signs, nothing frightening, but in retrospect, the clues were there to see. That doesn't do much good in retrospect, but one day, we were making plans for a wedding, and the next I was helping one friend start a new life in an undisclosed location while helping the other exit the psych ward, and let me just say: that was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

These kinds of events are like shockwaves - there's the initial event, but, whatever the cause, even among non-public figures, those waves reverberate for some time after, touching many lives in ways that are so hard to work through. I hope Jaylen, his family, and anyone on the team who felt a connection are getting the help they need, because it is most certainly a burden on them as well.

There must be consequences for the events which brought this article into existence, however they played out. Bird may face up to ten years in prison on the kidnapping charge alone, according to Sports Illustrated's legal expert Michael McCann, and maybe as much as 25 years if a firearm was involved. But keep in mind a lot of those consequences will be paid by the family and friends of not only Jabari, but the victim, as well. While it might not be convenient, taking time to work through this is the right thing to do.

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Image: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
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